Where the Metal Meets the Dirt

I found them earlier this year.  Paint peeling, marred with scratches and gouges, scarred with rusty scabs, I knew they would be perfect in my little country garden.

I like to think it was manifest destiny, a magnetic pull that brought me to their hiding places two states away.  Trapped within a rusty boneyard of repurposed old metal, I saw through their neighboring junk and felt myself mesmerized by their rough, rusted beauty.  Although still winter, I was already dreaming of their scrolled curves flanked by green leaves, the sun glinting through their open filigrees, a flowering vine creeping carefully up their metal spines.  I knew their home would be my garden.

So after patiently waiting in my dark shed all spring, a few weeks ago they saw their future home for the first time.  How they sun must have quickly warmed their cold metal as I brought them into my slowly awakening garden.  We moved them here.  Then there.  And back.  Until I had found the perfect angle in that far corner of my garden.   They were perfect, just as I had imagined.  They were like long lost friends that I had stumbled upon, not realizing it was garden destiny.

That day we sliced the warm dirt apart with a pick, digging a thin slit in the ground to anchor the heavy weight of its frame.  And as we carefully tamped the dirt down around its base, there was a magical moment when my red scrolled gate stood on its own, rising above my garden, whispering wordlessly of that enchanting, magical threshold that gates and doors instinctively evoke.  And begging questions like

What is beyond?  Where will this lead? And Where have I been?

Where do your dreams meet the reality of the dirt?  Your dreams, too, may find themselves leaned up against a wall in your shed, far from sight and farther from mind.  No matter the business of life, the errands to run, the schedules to keep, the procrastinated projects pulling at you, they will be there still, waiting in the far depths of your mind patiently.

Collecting dust and being pushed further and further into corners, they will wait.

Until one day you come across them again, still beautiful in their dusty, dirty, abandoned corner.  Maybe you will have forgotten all about the bright hope they once shone in your heart.   Or maybe it will seem like just yesterday when you daydreamed of them constantly, feeling they were just within reach.  Will you have the courage to pull your dreams from the depths, dust them off, and move them around in your life until you find the perfect place within your garden?

That day this winter, with my new finds somehow strategically fitted into our vehicle, my heart fluttered with dreams of terra cotta pots, filled to the brim with cascading petunias, seated happily upon my white rusted garden bench.  Of oversized clematis blooms climbing vigorously up the sides of my red rusted gate.  And of the sense of magic I knew they would instantly ignite within my growing garden.

I couldn’t wait for my coneflowers to open their bright petalled eyes this summer to see their new neighbors.  A dream, small as it was, that came to find its feet planted stoutly in the dirt.

Just a Spot of Sunshine

My cats are attracted to them.

Just a spot of sunshine is all they need.  A shining place to curl up and be embraced by the bright warmth, to be coaxed into a sleepy nap.  They have a knack for finding them —  those sometimes out-of-the-way spots of bright light that have been cast just beyond a chair or up next to a wall.  Or even on top of a turquoise flip flop.

Do you have a little spot of sunshine?  It may be a special place.  A pond lined with cattail bird roosts and fuzzy-budded willows.  A velvety chenille blanket, a mug of steaming coffee and a riveting book.  Or maybe an old truck, rusted on the outside, its aged seatcovers still scented sharply with gasoline and musty sweat on the inside.

Two spots of sunshine, in the form of my nephews.

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Maybe it’s a special person.  A grandson that hugs you with his whole being on legs that never seem to stop running.  A friend made long ago, separated now by years and distance, that you can start up with again right where you left off years ago.  Maybe that spot of sunshine is someone who can make you laugh and giggle, no matter the situation.

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Where are you drawn, like cats to sunny spots?  Where do you go to feel safely embraced with warmth and happiness? What is your little spot of sunshine?

My sunny spot consists of gravel paths leading through slightly raised beds, a blooming haven of bumble bees, hummingbirds and usually a napping kitty or two.  It is a place that feels like home to me.  I built its borders with river rocks, handpicked out of a big pile, leveled edge to edge, to create a meandering free form outline on the very back of my new home’s lot.  I turned the hard clay soil within these river rocks, then hand-screened, shovel-full by shovel-full, new soil to fill them up.  Then I turned the dirt again.

And as I planted my very first bare root peonies that fall, I also waged war on the weeds that had traveled to my new flower beds via the hand-screened dirt.  It was hard.  It was tedious.  But I knew in my heart that one day it would be a sunny spot for me, in more ways than one.

It’s my sunny spot all winter as I peruse my perennial plant catalogs, dreaming of all the possibilities that exist.  It’s my sunny spot in the spring as I watch what started as little seeds of hope last fall, curl a brand new leaf open to the sun.  It’s my sunny spot all summer as I relish in the fruits of my labor.  Flowers blooming, bees humming and beautiful energy rising from its colorful bursts, bouquets of fragrant blooms abound.  And it’s my sunny spot in the fall as I watch my hard working plants slowly cower down to rest, and I plant new seeds, tubers, rhizomes and roots of hope for next spring.

I’ve celebrated warm Friday evenings there with a beer in hand.  I’ve sat on its graveled path, crushed and broken, embraced by only coneflowers, bee balm and black-eyed susans.  Salty tears dripping onto the soil that gives these plants life.  I’ve smiled there and I’ve cried there.  But no matter the clouds in the sky, my little spot is always sunny.

Never underestimate the power of a sunny spot.

Those special places in our lives have the power to give us rest when beaten down. They have the energy to reinvigorate us, to help us rise up and conquer those obstacles we may have in front of us.

The also can have the calm presence to just encourage us forward, slowly, quietly and subtly.  Giving us a gentle hand on our shoulder to let us know we can do it, that life doesn’t always require us to fight with a roar, but maybe to just have the courage to continue on again tomorrow.

Steroids, Doctor Visits and . . . Bubble Gum?

Max and I have been having a go at it. It began with his annual shots in February. From there the weather warmed nicely and Max went from a winter kitty, spending all day indoors napping and grooming, to a full-on bird watching, bird chasing, tree climbing, dirt rolling, catmint eating blur of an alley cat outside of my house. Zero to 60 in ten seconds flat. So it’s no wonder that his winter body wasn’t quite ready for this immediate transformation.

Just a couple of weeks after he got his annual shots, which I’m just certain must have included some caffeine and catnip, he sauntered up to my back porch one afternoon looking literally like something the cat had drug in. Only he was the cat that was being drug in.

His fluffy fur was matted down with what appeared to be foreign doggy drool and he was covered in dark, filmy mud. I was certain that his buddy, the neighbor’s giant hound dog, had mistaken him for a Frisbee and some intense, rough housing had ensued. I pictured my poor Max being hurled through the air, then caught between the strong jaws of the dog and finally being held down under a big furry paw as he tried wriggle to an escape, all in the name of puppy play.

For all my wild imagination had created, I knew Max had probably simply squeezed himself under some fence, clearly underestimating the extra weight he was carrying from winter’s lounging, and had gotten stuck if but for a moment between the wooden pickets and the mud beneath.

Regardless, he had been somewhere. And your guess is as good as mine.

As he jumped gingerly across the grass to run back inside, I thought I noticed him limp on his back leg. But with the story I had imagined involving the neighbor dog and Frisbees, I chalked it up to yet another minor Max incident that would disappear by the next time he stood at my back door, wanting to be let back out into the great outdoors.

Only it didn’t happen that way. He didn’t want to go out. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to move. Day after day I would find him sulking in my closet, curled up on a winter sweater fallen from a hanger to the floor. He wouldn’t even raise his head.

I was worried.

But the real worry never hits until Saturdays, when the vet clinic is closed and I have enough time in the day to conjure up grandiose stories in my mind about his doomed fate. Before long I find myself worked up into a tizzy, fully believing that he may not survive to see Monday.

I called the vet, through the emergency weekend cell phone number. This was an emergency, right? Small towns definitely have their perks, and the vet did the best she could to diagnose my Max over the phone, based on statements like: “He’s depressed and won’t get up. He may have been limping on one foot. He’s just not himself.” She asked me detailed questions about the possible limp and the day he came back covered in mud and drool. You can imagine it was a highly scientific conversation based on these facts I had given. She promised to leave some antibiotics outside the vet’s office that I could begin to start giving Max.

Max, looking worried that I may be approaching him with a bright pink, bubble gum flavored vial in hand.

The funny thing about cat and dog antibiotics is that they’re flavored like . . .bubble gum. Yes, bubble gum. Not tuna fish, or steak, or some kind of mystery meat. Nope, the liquid version is HOT pink and smells like bubble gum. Oddly, I wonder if cats and dogs find bubble gum to be yummy and who it was that made that scientific determination. Nonetheless, I gave my Max his daily dose of bubble gum, watching carefully for his depression to fade and his energetic kitty playfulness to return.

Only that didn’t happen either. I gave it another couple of weeks, until, you guessed it . . .a Friday when I was almost out of time to get him to the vet’s office and my doomsday thoughts began kicking in that he may not make it to Monday.

After of battery of tests including Max’s first x-ray, broken bones were luckily ruled out. However, she did notice a few “murky” vertebrae in his back and tail. She attributed it to Max getting caught somewhere and pulling himself loose or someone tugging him by his tail. You know which version I instantly went with. Who would yank my poor Max by his fluffy tail?!

I left the vet’s office with a daily regime of steroids, in decreasing quantities, to be given over two week’s time. Her hope was that the steroids would ease Max’s pain at least long enough for the “murky” vertebrae to heal. “Murky” vertebrae do heal, don’t they? What exactly is a “murky” vertebrae?

I decided I would save those questions for a Saturday, when I would become quite certain that these “murky” vertebrae were threatening his life.

Questions Without Answers

Where am I going?  Why am I doing this?  What is all this for?  And should I have the answers to these questions?

If you haven’t noticed by my lack of regular posts over the past couple of weeks, I seem to have come upon a complete lack of inspiration.  The weather is nice, my garden is slowly growing, but I’ve found myself unable to find even the smallest, tiniest tidbits of inspiration throughout my days.  Just last night, the town herd of deer even stole my latest bit of inspiration:  the hardy geranium in my concrete planter that had happily covered itself in fuzzy, new leaves.  Overnight, its beautiful leafed shaped was transformed into an unexpected buzz cut.  All that remains are a few nubs of stems, not a leaf in sight.  Forget a tip for that hairdresser!  So even this, my latest hint of inspiration, was chewed off in the middle of the night as I slept.

One of the things that I’ve really learned by muddling my way through creating a blog is that it has caused me to literally slow down, to remember things, to experience things.  A snowflake on my nose, the smell of wet bales of winter hay, even the recent landing of a sparkling jewel of a winged insect upon my arm one warm afternoon.  But lately, it seems I’m struggling for anything worthy of writing about or sharing with others.  What is my goal?  And, do I need a goal?

All it seems I can offer is a life filled with daily struggles, lessons (hopefully learned), cause for laughter here and there and little seeds of inspiration which can be found always, if you just look close enough.

My Dad asked me the question a few weekends ago and it was funny timing, because I had been secretly asking myself the exact same question of myself the week before.  He asked me what I hoped to get out of blogging and writing, or where I hoped it would take me.  The honest truth is:  I don’t know.  But something is encouraging me, leading me to continue on.   It is pulling me along blindly without that final destination on the radar.  So, I’ve offered it up to God.

It reminded me of something I had read that had encouraged my soul a few years ago.  It was a just a short essay written by The Rev. Spencer Carr entitled, “Who is God Calling You to Be?”  I had somewhat grudgingly read through it, not all too inspired by the title or its introduction.  But something urged me on and in the final paragraphs of the essay, I read words that had a really profound effect on my heart.  The author was in his fifties and was questioning his call to pursue ordination into the priesthood at such a late stage in his life.

“Does it really make sense, I asked, for me already in my 50s, to invest the time (and money!) to become a priest?  And the Rev. Canon Bert Womack answered me, ‘As far as we know, God may be calling you to be a priest for just one single task at one particular moment.’  I came to see that if God was calling me to be a priest, it was just as important for me to say yes then as it would be at any other time in my life.”

It caused me to reflect on the concept that our lives may have many significant moments, but our purpose in doing something may just be one moment at one particular time.  All your preparing, all your living, loving and losing may be for just one, singular moment.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Will you be ready for your moment when it comes?  Will you cherish it, realizing that it was what you had been molded for over the course of your entire lifetime?  Or will you discard it as merely circumstantial?

Your job, your volunteer activities, your recreation, your friends, your enemies all may be preparing you, and even if it is just one moment of opportunity, your life brings you to these exact moments.  It has prepared you to change the course of life, either your own or someone else’s.  It is hard to grasp that a lifetime may be all about one moment, one chance, one opportunity.  And doesn’t that give it the mysterious, and very real potential to slip away so easily?  To disappear quickly without a second’s notice.  To never have even realized that it was the moment you were meant for?

So, as I return from a short little writing hiatus, I may not know where this little blog of mine will take me, or what new friends it may connect me to through the world of technology or who’s heart it may touch one morning as the sun rises but I feel something pulling me, encouraging me to continue on.

 

 

 

“When you feel that inner pull – Go for it!  Be the person that God is calling you to be.  And do it with whatever time and strength you may have left in which to live out your calling.”

Who is God calling you to be?  What is He encouraging you to do each day?  We may not understand it now, but we can have faith He is leading us to a series of moments.  Very important moments, big or small as they may be.  Moments that a lifetime has lead us to and prepared us for.  And a chance to do the very special, unique work He has given us to do.

May you feel encouraged, even when the road is winding and the sun’s glimmer fades to empty darkness.  When you question where the next bend will take you, or wonder why and how you ended up on this rocky, uphill path — Never give up, but know that you are quietly being led where you need to go.  It may not be an easy path, but it is the only path.  And to very special, important moments it will lead you.

Searching for Signs of Life

It started with the red wine shoots of peonies, pushing up with Goliath-like strength from below the ground.  Raising whole areas of dirt above them as if doing push ups with the Earth itself.

It was this sudden appearance which led to my daily policing of the walkways through my flower garden.  Scouring, searching for signs of life.  I patrolled carefully and slowly, looking for any hint of green newness sprouting amid the dirt.

Have you ever sought one thing in life, and when looking closer, found something much different?  Sometimes the things we think we are looking for are simply the crumbs along the path leading us to discover things that we could have never expected.

I found my Raspberry Wine Monarda had been growing over the winter, with a much larger footprint in my garden than last summer.  I found myself feeling excited, then worried with its aggression, and thankful I had picked a fairly large area to plant it just a year and a half ago.  If I’m not careful, I may find myself with a flower garden consisting of only bee balm!

A humble daffodil stem suddenly pregnant with the swelling of a flower bud within one of its green leaves.  Then another appeared, then another.  I couldn’t wait for the birth of their yellow, double-ruffled offspring, their due dates surely just days away.

Spikes of purple Siberian iris leaves jut out in a large clump in the middle of my garden. Their sharp-shaped leaves cutting a bold silhouette against the blue spring sky.

Clumps of salvia began stretching their new leaves upward.  Beautiful, new zig-zag edged leaves as if cut out carefully with a pair of pinking shears.  I dreamed of the deep purple depth they add to my garden, their tall spires luring bees nearly all summer.

Like fluffy marshmallows halfway buried within the dirt, I spied the very tops of my Asiatic lilies pushing their air-puffed way out into the sunshine.

Max found my catmint clump sprouting new leaves and without restraint he began rolling, biting, sniffing and scratching at the plant’s brand new growth.  Such is the curious attraction between kitties and catmint.  Without the full dose he’s able to ingest and inhale during the summer months, the new sprouts didn’t sedate him into a sleepy, curled nap.  We’ll save those catmint induced naps for summer’s sluggish afternoons.

Even within the dense remains of last summer’s stems, I saw a brand new green curl of an Echinacea leaf squeezing forth.  I was already dreaming of their happy, summer blooms swaying in my garden with bees humming around them busily.

Around a corner I even saw buds on my Ash Leaf spirea bush.  Sharp, red-edged green leaves uncurling slowly upon branches still grey with winter.

That initial sighting of my first peony pushing up out of the dirt prompted a full-scale search for other signs of life within my garden.  Searching and expecting to find some things, and instead stumbling upon other discoveries seems such a fitting metaphor for the week ahead.  As we begin the final week leading up to glorious Easter, what have you found yourself searching for?

After Jesus’ death upon the cross, followers probably thought the search was over.  Despite taunts from the crowd, there was no visible miraculous rescue from his torturous death upon the cross, no angels swooping him up and into the heavens for all to witness, no ground breaking rumble of thunder to shake him free of the stakes piercing his hands and ankles.  It was all over. Nothing more to hope for.  Even Christ himself cried to God:

  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”      Mark 15:34

However, Mary and Mary Magdalene quietly sought out His fateful tomb three days later to prepare and anoint His body respectfully.  As they must have timidly approached the tomb that morning, with the sun still low and pink the sky, they were expecting to find a tomb blocked by a rock, shrouding the death of their beloved within.  They must have wondered, impossibly, how they would move that giant rock away.

But where they were expecting death, they instead found life.  In the form of a rock moved away, an empty tomb and a risen Christ, they found life that would be everlasting.

So during the upcoming week, may you seek and find new life.  An everlasting life through Christ, who died so that we might be forgiven.  Sacrificed so that we might be saved.  Betrayed, punished, beaten, humiliated, spat upon, taunted, cursed and crowned with thorns so that we might live eternally.  May this week inspire you to seek and find, to hope and believe that life continues, even when it may seem to have ended.

And just like in my little flower garden, may you search and be happily amazed at the life growing both around you and within you.  And may the hope of things to come, ever inspire you to continue seeking, for your reward lies in faith that there is life beyond this earthly garden.

 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Cor. 4:17-18

Mourning the Fallen

The wind howled today.  In angry gusts of pent up spring temperament, it raged across the ground picking up anything and everything in its path.  Dust flew.  Sand & small rocks flew too.  Tumbleweeds shot across the sky as if propelled from within a jet engine.  I expected to see the fenceline due north of us transformed from open wire, into a virtual wall of crackly weeds, caught and pushed against each other, an abrupt end to their flights by way of a few strings of barbed wire.

As I drove home, the wind had calmed some, but its effects could be seen everywhere.  Random household objects littered the middle of our main thoroughfare.  Diapers, beer cans and shingles were strewn everywhere.  A pine tree, snapped at the base.  All that remained of its trunk were a few sharp shards sticking haphazardly out of the ground.  They pointed sharply upward as if in testimony to their glorious form that had only hours earlier reached its old branches skyward.  Now it had been quickly sawn into long sections, and laid out down the side street as if in a public viewing of its death.  There it lay. Sadly, broken and no longer intact.

I instantly mourned for that tree, its owner and the house that now had to stand alone, without its branched canopy or the gentle song of a breeze through its needles.

It took me back to a sadness I knew well.  On the verge of signing paperwork to buy my very first home out of college, I still felt myself teetering on the edge of whether to do it or not.  Then, the picture of the house in its full summer glory, shaded by a beautiful, silver maple tree in the front yard, would be plucked from the “Pros” side of my advantages v.s disadvantages mental list I had created in my mind.

I dreamed of birds nestled in its branches all summer, lightly cooing outside my window on sunny afternoons.  I dreamed of the beautiful dappled shade it would cast on my green lawn, the fluttering of leaves overhead with summer’s hot breeze.  I dreamed of its green leaves burning with autumn’s fading light, turning the tree into a bold, yellow burst of fall color.  I dreamed even of the joy of raking all autumn, amassing giant piles of crunchy leaves to fall backwards into.

And with those dreams framed in the front of my mind, I signed on the dotted line.

A few years into my new home ownership, I started to notice a change.  Actually one of my neighbors alerted me.  She, too, had a silver maple in her front yard.  With fewer and fewer leaves, and green leaves yellowing all summer, she had resorted to deep feeding schedules and expert advice.  She feared she was going to lose her tree and she was worried about mine as well.

Happily surrounded by fallen silver maple leaves

I tried to act unconcerned, but the fact was:  I had noticed it too.  It didn’t have as many green leaves, and lots of them would yellow and fall to the ground.  One day I even noticed an entire bare branch without a single leaf intact. I hoped for the best, but my heart secretly feared the worst.  I resorted to iron supplements, fertilizer stakes, deep root watering wands and resigned myself to trim the dead branches as soon as I saw them.  The quicker I could get rid of the symptom, I hoped, the quicker it would mend itself.  Maybe these dead branches were just a figment of my imagination or an unlucky summer budding timeline.

I scoured online looking for possible remedies, causes, cures, reasons, explanations and miracles.  Silver maples, it turns out in the area I lived, did often suffer from iron deficiencies, causing the leaves to yellow.  Drought was also a factor.  After enduring three winters of extreme drought, maybe my summer sprinkler system and the city-patrolled, two-day-a-week watering schedule just wasn’t making up enough ground for those other six months of the year.  I learned that silver maples are also fairly short-lived trees.  The negatives were racking up.  I found myself preparing, secretly, for what seemed to be the inevitable.

Apparently this photo was NOT taken during one of our drought winters!

A few years later, despite my valiant attempts at resuscitation, my beautiful silver maple had been reduced to all of two tall branches that still leafed out timidly.  I wonder if those branches missed their friends and the days of happy green leaves, they looked lonely and abandoned.  Betrayed and left to fight what remained of a losing battle.  It broke my heart to remember its green-leafed canopy, its cool summer shade and those piles of autumn leaves.  They were but a distant memory now.

I wasn’t there the day the tree cutters showed up.  The next time I saw my front yard, the only memory of my dear silver maple was a sawed off stump and the naked blankness of my beige and brick house.  The tree had somehow buffered it so gratuitously for all those years.   The character, the longstanding curb appeal, the aged perfection it had infused to my front yard had dematerialized instantly with that final carcass of wood that they dragged carelessly off to the side of my driveway.  What took nearly thirty years to grow had been butchered into saleable-sized pieces in less than an hour.

Like a friend, my silver maple tree had seen me through my first house, my first car purchase, an emergency appendectomy and a revolving line of friends and roommates.  It had watched me come home much too late on a few nights, but it had also seen me leaving the driveway early on Sunday mornings for church.  It saw me through promotions at work, and disappointments with friends.  It watched me celebrate the weddings of my brother and my sister.  Life was good, life was bad and my silver maple saw it all, standing stoically there in my yard.  No expression but the beautiful leafed tears it shed every fall and the proud buds of hope that welled up each spring.

My beloved silver maple, in all its beauty, is but a memory now, long burned in a fireplace for heat.  It is hard to say goodbye and to let a dream go.  To boldly embrace where it has taken you, but also to realize its end has come.  In a pile of firewood that day, I said goodbye to a tree . . . and a dream, but its beauty will live on forever in my heart.

Awakening

From the slow slumber of winter, it’s awakening.  Nodding its groggy head with the newfound warmth of morning, yawning in tiny blooms of crocus.  It stretches its cramped arms of bark with new buds.  The world is awakening.

The first sounds of the returning red-winged blackbirds, chanting their happy chorus, reminiscing with each other about the anticipated arrival of clear, burbling streams, fuzzy cattail perches and country fields.  They flit about, leaving but a memory of a red wing in your mind, as you are left with only the sweet sound of their countryside harmony and their shadows flying low overhead.

In the fields, new baby calves shake on spindle legs, still wet with newness.  They nestle down in the rows of hay meant for feeding, hiding from the chilly spring air.  By afternoon they are playing, kicking up heels, teasing the tall grass on the other side of the fence.  Other soon-to-be mommas sway heavily up and down the fields, their bellies stretched to near bursting.  Soon the entire field will be alive with scampering babies playing hide and seek under the watchful eyes of their relieved mothers.

Near another fence, the soft, velvety muzzles of horses seek new shoots of grass low upon the ground blindly, with only the tender bending of short green stems to guide their craving mouths.  They steal them up before the stalks can stretch their new arms, relishing in the sweet freshness of spring.  They trot.  They run.  They, too,  kick their heels up in the warm brightness, celebrating the season’s return.

Up the blacktop road a ways, a fuzzy orange and black survivor of a caterpillar winds his way across the warm asphalt as if guided not by sight or sound, but by the last warm rays of the afternoon casting their heat upon the deserted road.  He inches his way across the double yellow line and disappears down the other side into the barrow ditch, escaping traffic and birds with their eyes out for a quick, insect meal.  Had the cold air of winter stunted his metamorphosis?  Maybe he had been awakened by the warm spring sun, desperately searching for his caterpillar friends, only to find they were gone.  Metamorphosed, wings dried and tested, flight plans registered, they had embarked upon their final lift off last fall.  He had somehow survived in his juvenile state, now longing for the instinctual cross continental flight he had missed with his fellow flyers.  With non-refundable tickets, he may find himself living out the second stage of his life in the same place he was born.

A tractor lifts up clouds of dust in another field, sounds of chains clinking and a diesel engine’s hum rising up in a swirl around it. Winter’s last remnants being dragged, and pulled, broken up to give way to spring’s new green grass.

Around another corner, a black and white patrols the fenceline.  This patrolman doesn’t have a fancy car, blinking lights or a radio system.  This officer is equipped only with a black and white tail, that when lifted, warns all in the vicinity to leave quickly.  A skunk.  His nose to the ground, he sniffs his way along the fence here and there and back, smell guiding his travails.  The return of his pungent smell as you drive along in the country is a sure sign that spring has come, with only sweeter days and warm sunshine ahead.

Prairie dogs, awakened by the recent spring melt which floods their shallow holes, stand at attention, whistling calls back and forth to each other.  They scurry low to the ground, standing straight up to chew on the end of a piece of last summer’s tall grass, throwing it over their furry shoulders when finished.  Others are head first into their holes, legs digging frantically, clouds of dust and piles of dirt rising up behind them.  There’s work to be done.

The world is awakening.  Slowly, slowly, the sun has beckoned us all out of our winter depths, and into the fresh, spring air with an enchanting, seasonal magnetism that cannot be ignored.  We are still timid, fearful of a late spring snow, and the bite of a cool morning’s frost.  Before long, winter will be but a memory, easily surpassed by green grassy meadows, baby robins hopping along the ground in search of worms and warm days topped off by nights scented with the purity of only coolness.  Nights where the blanket of a million stars above seems close enough to reach out and grab, where we’ll be tempted to steal a few galactic sparkles away into a lint-bottomed pocket, to be pulled out and remembered for always.  It is just beginning.

The world is awakening.